Since 2006 the government agency has been promoting its visual, colour-coded scheme, dubbed ‘traffic lights’ since foods with high levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt bear a red mark, while medium levels merit an amber mark and low levels bear green.
The food industry, on the other hand, has promoted its guidance daily amount (GDA) scheme; some products have been marked simply with the words ‘high’, ‘medium’, and ‘low’ in relation to the nutrients; others have used colours in an inconsistent manner – such as green for fat, yellow for salt.
Following research that found consumers preferred a system that combines all three of these methods and a consultation on the best way forward, the FSA announced last Friday that it would ask the board to endorse the new combo approach.
The approach remains voluntary; indeed a new EU-wide front-of-pack labelling scheme is currently being hammered out in Brussels. It will be mandatory across the bloc, and the indications are that it will resemble the GDA system.
In the meantime, however, now that the board has given its approval, the FSA will recommend its new combo system to UK health ministers. There will then follow a four to six week consultation on the technical guidance that will be needed for implementation.
The FSA was clear to point out that its new preferred system does not represent support for the industry system.
“The Board's recommendation clearly signals that the Agency does not support FOP labels using only % GDAs, but that % GDAs should be combined with either traffic light colours or text, and should ideally have all three elements,” it said in a statement.
Jeff Rooker, chair of the FSA board, said: “The board was clear that it wanted a single approach to front of pack labelling that works. Tremendous progress has been made by industry in taking up front-of-pack labelling but different schemes are causing confusion to consumers. The board is very clear that the framework outlined today is an important step on the way to a single approach.”